A recent study has charted the mobility of the Religiously Unaffiliated, showing that, from 2010 to 2014, 48% of self-identifying agnostics, 42% of No Particular Religion, and 18% of atheists changed their religious identification. By way of comparison, slightly more than 10% of Protestants and slightly fewer than 10% of Catholics changed theirs. This general trend that the non-religious should change more than the religious is not surprising, since religions survive by encouraging continued adherence. There are, however, some interesting developments within the “defections”.
20 of the 42% of No Particular Religion defectors went on to identify as atheistic or agnostic. While described in the article as moving “away from traditional faith”, this could well be simple relabelling, given that neither atheists nor agnostics have any particular religion. On the other hand, the 17.3% who joined a church were more definitely moving towards religion; the fact that one can attend a church without subscribing to all of its tenets means that mere attendance cannot be taken as a change in belief.
In contrast, only 4.5 of the 48% of agnostic defectors joined a church, while 18.9 identified as Nothing in Particular, and 22.5 as atheists. It is difficult to speculate how much of that might be mere relabelling as the term “agnostic” is confusing to quite a few people: some who express agnostic views nonetheless self-identify as “atheist”, especially in the United States, quite possibly as a deliberate rejection of religious labels; some who self-identify as “agnostic” express definite, atheistic views, perhaps taking the former label as a more nuanced one.
Meanwhile, the fact that change was far rarer amongst atheists than amongst agnostics or those of No Particular Religion is coherent with the church-like behaviour of militant atheism: the production of a self-reinforcing, adherence-encouraging rhetoric.
A Barna study presents Generation Z teenagers as predominantly dissuaded from Christianity by the Problem of Pain, the question as to how G-d can be good, given the suffering in the world.
While the Problem of Pain rates as a obstacle for 29% of Generation Z and 30% of Millennials, it is only an issue for 22% of Generation X and 18% of Baby Boomers.
For the older three, however, Christian hypocrisy is the greater issue: an obstacle for 31% of Millennials, 25% of Generation X, and 29% of Baby Boomers.
Studies in the USA show a distinct correlation between youth and such philanthropic matters as
* acceptance of homosexuality
* support for gay marriage
* concern for the environment
* belief in the value of governmental assistance
And then there is a the *negative* correlation between youth and church attendance. What image are those correlations going to produce regarding the *moral* position of Christianity? Here are a couple of hints.
Meanwhile, members of the older generation persist in blaming the young for leaving church. Had they not so thoroughly abdicated the moral high ground in their pursuit of dogmatism, they wouldn’t need to be facing this position.
On advocating for social justice:
“Open your mouth, judge righteously,
Mandating collective social justice:
“Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove.” – Exodus 23:10-11
“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather everygrape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:9-10
“At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” – Deuteronomy 14:28-29
Judging the collective failure to pursue social justice:
“Your princes are
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves bribes,
And follows after rewards.
They do not defend the fatherless,
Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.
Therefore the Lord says,
The Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel,
‘Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries,
And take vengeance on My enemies.
I will turn My hand against you,
And thoroughly purge away your dross,
And take away all your alloy.'” – Isaiah 1:23-25
“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” – Ezekiel 16:49
“Therefore, because you [plural] tread down the poor
And take grain taxes from him,
Though you have built houses of hewn stone,
Yet you shall not dwell in them;
You have planted pleasant vineyards,
But you shall not drink wine from them.” – Amos 5:11
A Christianity Today summary of research by LifeWay, Pew, and PRRI analyses the differences between self-identification as Evangelical and attachment to certain propositions. It also shows the connection between Evangelical identity and Republican politics.
The Christian Post shared an article saying that Christians were kicked out of an Australian bar for discussing their opposition to gay marriage. The bar, however, say that they asked the Christians to move their meeting – which included people using a public address system – from the beer garden to the bar’s private function space. Notably, the CP fails to mention this.
A couple of weeks ago, the same news service shared a story about a Christian student’s being kicked out of his university for supporting Kim Davis . That article fails to mention that publicly sharing a passage calling homosexuality an “abomination” worthy of the death penalty violates the Standards of Conduct, Performance, and Ethics for UK social workers , and that it was the violation of professional standards, not his religious belief, for which he was expelled not from the university but from a professional training course.
If you want to know why so many Christians believe that they are being persecuted, you could start by looking at how much their news services are omitting.